5 Nutrients Your Cat Needs for Optimal Health and Well-Being

Cute cat enjoying himself outdoors.

Key Points

  • Cats can't eat an all-vegetarian diet because they must have animal protein to survive.

  • Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids help cats with skin inflammation or sensitivity.

  • Cats need about four ounces of water per five pounds of body weight daily.

Like all living animals, cats need certain nutrients not only to survive but to thrive. Many cat foods labeled as "complete" contain the nutrients required. Look at the ingredients and the guaranteed analysis on your cat's food label to ensure they receive everything they need.

Cats require a specific combination of essential nutrients to support their growth, maintain their bodily functions, and prevent potential health issues. In this article, we explore five key nutrients that are crucial for your cat's overall health.

If you don't find them in your cat's food, talk to your vet to see if a supplement is appropriate.

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and only exist in animal proteins. Cats, unlike some other animals, have specific dietary requirements for amino acids, as they cannot produce some on their own.


Taurine is an essential amino acid that is crucial to your cat's health. It's necessary for proper heart function, vision, digestion, reproduction, and fetal development. Cats require a high level of taurine in their diet to prevent potential health issues, such as heart disease and vision problems. A taurine deficiency usually occurs when food lacks organ meat.


Methionine is another essential amino acid that cats need in their diet. It contributes to healthy skin, coat, and nail growth. Methionine also acidifies urine and prevents the formation of kidney and bladder crystals and stones.


Arginine is a crucial amino acid for various metabolic processes. It helps detoxify ammonia, supports immune function, and promotes healthy liver function. Cats may experience serious health complications, including ammonia toxicity, without adequate arginine, which may lead to neurological issues.


Fats are essential to a cat's diet and provide a concentrated energy source. They also serve other vital functions, such as absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. Most commercial cat food contains these fats. Canned food is typically higher in protein and lower in fat. If your cat is overweight, a lower-carb diet may be appropriate.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that has numerous health benefits for cats. They reduce joint inflammation, sometimes an issue for elderly cats suffering from arthritis, and skin inflammation in cats with skin allergies or hot spots. They support a healthy immune system and promote brain development and function. It's also an anticoagulant, preventing blood clots in cats with or prone to heart disease.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-6 fatty acids are another essential type of fat that cats require. Like omega-3, they play a role in maintaining healthy skin and a shiny coat. Omega-6 fatty acids affect various physiological processes, including reproductive health and immune system function. The easiest way for your cat to consume these fats is through food with fish as a protein.

If your cat has certain issues or deficiencies or their diet doesn't contain the appropriate amount of fatty acids, they may need supplements.

Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Some vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K, are fat-soluble, requiring fats for absorption and usage in the body. These vitamins contribute to various functions, including vision, bone health, immune system support, and antioxidant activity. Even an overweight cat needs some fat to absorb these needed vitamins.

Wet and dry cat food


Minerals are vital for maintaining proper body functions. A magnesium deficiency may stunt growth in kittens or cause muscle weakness in adults. A deficiency in potassium or B12 may cause lethargy. If you think your cat has a mineral deficiency, your vet can perform a blood test.


Like humans, calcium is essential for cats to maintain healthy bones and teeth. It also plays a significant role in blood clotting, muscle function, and nerve transmission. Calcium is especially important when cats are young and their bones are developing; when they're old, they don't develop osteoarthritis.


Phosphorus is another vital mineral that cats require for optimal health. Working in conjunction with calcium, phosphorus supports bone and teeth formation. Dental health affects overall well-being, so taking care of your cat's teeth with minerals like phosphorus and regular brushing is imperative. Phosphorus also plays a critical role in energy metabolism and cellular function within the body.


Iron is an essential mineral that contributes to various bodily functions, including the production of red blood cells and oxygen transportation. Adequate iron intake is vital for preventing anemia.


Protein is a crucial nutrient for cats, as it's necessary to grow, repair, and maintain body tissues. High-quality protein sources should be a significant component of your cat's diet. It supports proper growth and development so your cat reaches their full potential.

Experts at Texas A&M University's Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences News recommend these feeding practices: "In general, for healthy adult cats, the best option is a canned food with a protein content of 40% or higher (greater than 10% if the can is greater than 78% water) and a carbohydrate content of 10% or less. Another way to determine this is to ensure that a carbohydrate source is not one of the first five listed ingredients."

They also stated that canned food provides more hydration for cats than those eating exclusively dry food.

Cats are always on the go, and protein is essential for maintaining and repairing your cat's muscles. It aids in preserving lean muscle mass and preventing muscle wastage, particularly in older cats or those recovering from an injury or illness.

Protein plays a critical role in supporting a healthy immune system in cats. It helps produce antibodies and enzymes to fight infections and diseases, keeping your feline friend well-protected.


Vitamins are essential micronutrients cats need in small amounts for various bodily functions and overall well-being. Certain vitamins play specific roles in promoting your cat's health.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A supports vision, promotes healthy skin and coat, and maintains the stability of various tissues in your cat's body. It's crucial for maintaining good eye health and supporting your cat's night vision. Loss of vision becomes a problem in certain breeds and cats with diabetes.


B-complex vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and others, affect numerous enzymatic reactions within a cat's body. They play a vital role in metabolizing protein, carbohydrates, and fat. B-12 helps with appetite and energy and may affect anxiety.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is necessary for the proper absorption and balance of calcium and phosphorus for optimal bone health in cats. It also contributes to a healthy immune system. While humans get some of their vitamin D from the sun, cats only get it from their diet.


Water is vital for all living things. Cats should always have access to clean and fresh water throughout the day. Water is essential for various bodily functions, including digestion, temperature regulation, and waste elimination. Adequate hydration ensures optimal organ function and prevents potential health issues like urinary tract problems and the formation of stones in the kidney or bladder.

The amount of water a cat needs may vary depending on age, weight, and diet. A cat should consume about four ounces of water per five pounds of body weight daily. Part of this amount comes from the water in their bowl, but part may come from their diet. However, if your cat has specific health issues or is on a special diet, consult your veterinarian for appropriate water intake guidelines.

Encouraging Cats To Drink More Water

Some cats may not drink enough water on their own. For your cat to stay adequately hydrated, try strategies like providing multiple water bowls throughout the house or using pet fountains.

This TikTok video, posted July 11, 2023, shows cats drinking from a pet fountain. One of them is blind, and the sound of the flowing water leads them to their water source. If you don't have a fountain, feed your cat moisture-rich foods like canned food. If this doesn't fit your budget, add water or broth to dry kibble.

Feline Feelin' Fine

You want your cat around as long as possible. For that to happen, they need all the necessary nutrients in their food. A well-balanced diet includes essential amino acids, fats, minerals, protein, vitamins, and an adequate supply of fresh water.

Now that you know everything your cat needs, check their diet to ensure it's all there. Take a proactive approach to your cat's health and rely on professional advice and research-based articles.

Consult your veterinarian for specific dietary recommendations tailored to your cat's needs. Make sure your cat receives the necessary nutrients to keep them happy, healthy, and feeling like a fine feline!

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